Monday, 19 November 2012

Designs Learned (a step beyond Lessons Learned)

Open paper aeroplane design Long term readers of this blog will know that I do not believe a lesson has been learned, until something has changed as a result.

A lesson which has been identified, but not yet embedded through change, is a "lesson identified", but not yet a "lesson learned".

Now what changes, is usually some form of design. It could be the design of a process, which gets better and better over time as new lessons are incorporated, and new process improvements identified. In fact one of my clients referred to his company's "common process" as "a fossilised record of lessons learned".

It could be the design of a piece of equipment, such as a production line, or a car, or an aeroplane. Constant learning combined with constant innovation has resulted in planes becoming ever lighter, ever safer, and ever more efficient, for example.

It could even be the design of your organisation. Lessons can identify the need for new organisational groups, or fewer levels of heirarchy, though these lessons seem to be the hardest ones to learn and embed, as it seems to be easier to change process, than to change organisation.

In order to change design, you need to look beyond the identification of lessons, and encompass the full learning cycle of identification, embedding (aka design change) and re-use. Lessons have to be routed to individuals or bodies with ownership of the process, product or organisational design, so they can review these lessons and improve the designs as required. By improving the design, the lesson becomes embedded.

So if you aspire to be a learning organisation, focus on "designs learned", rather than lessons learned.

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